I am a brand new member of this forum, and, incidentally, I hope this is not one of those forums where the members go back and forth at each other with name-calling, insults, etc.
Anyway, I have lost the beliefs that were instilled in me by family and church as a boy, and consider myself an atheist. I have for the most part stopped reading a lot of the “Why I lost my faith” literature. For one thing, it is like preaching to the choir for me.
I have read too many comments from Christians who refer to the atheist movement, or philosophy, etc. One recent letter said that the “Atheist Movement” has failed, and that Christians were the real intellectuals. Why, I don’t know. Do you consider atheism in the sense of a “movement”?
I believe Sam Harris said that he did not really like the label Atheist - why should I give myself a name because I don’t believe in something? - or something like that.
Any thoughts on this matter - is it necessary to call oneself an “atheist”? Of course, when someone asks about your beliefs, maybe atheist is an easy answer.
I too take issue with this concept of labeling myself based on what I’m not. I do not feel it is helpful and in fact puts me immediately at odds with any believer, because many of them use atheist as a pejorative. Which is ironic since Christians were called atheists by the Romans because they refused to worship the state gods. Remember most believers are atheists about all the other gods except there own. All that being said it might be impossible to forgo this word altogether, especially since humans are obsessed with labels and the polarization of opinions.
If you think that it’s a required word in order to tell people who you are/what you believe, go for it. Of course, the term “atheist” implies that it is a differentiation from the word theist, and this implication, to me, further implies that a “lack” of theism is such an abnormal thing that it requires grouping and name justification. I doubt I have to elucidate the problems of this.
There’s no need to have to define yourself. You can just say “This is what I believe ... ” and then follow with (GASP) actually explaining what you do believe and why you believe it. It might cause the universe to explode, so be careful
. . . is it necessary to call oneself an “atheist”? Of course, when someone asks about your beliefs, maybe atheist is an easy answer.
I find that I almost never have a need to refer to myself as an atheist. But unless you have the intellectual/conversational skills of a Sam Harris or Chris Hitchens, it’s possible you’ll run into a need for such self-referral at least once in a while. Some people are more easily bamboozled than others. I can tell my neighbor that rather than calling myself an atheist, I prefer blah blah blah. But if I go down anything resembling this route with my sister or brother-in-law, they’ll know exactly what I’m attempting. I’ve tried it.
Here’s the choice, as I see it. Accept being labelled as an atheist, or scurry around the issue of your refusal to buy into ancient, superstitious bullshit. How fancy a talker are you? Even Harris pisses off some of the religious with his refusal to use the “a” word. Are you an articulate enough bullshitter to get away with it?
Some Christians don’t seem to understand what’s going on in this regard. The smart ones do, though, and I doubt if they appreciate it. My guess is that they feel insulted, as anyone in their right mind does when being led down a path that’s meant to stroke you rather than inform you.
Thank you to all who replied to my question regarding the label “atheist”!! I don’t know if it is customary to thank those who reply, but I will.
Anyway, religious beliefs don’t always come up in everyday conversations, but sometimes I have to try very hard to avoid getting drawn into something, like when someone at work last year said that George Carlin had died. Someone said,“You know he was an atheist and didn’t believe in god” and then someone replied,“Well, I guess he does now!!!” I had to bite my tongue and walk away, because I think I was the only atheist in my office.
Like you, I no longer believe in the God of the New Testament that I was taught in Sunday school. But, I don’t call myself an atheist either, for I am a believer. I just think that what I believe in is far better than the tired old myths of the Bible.
What do I believe in? The rich tradition of human knowledge that goes back long before the Hebrew, Christian and Muslim Bibles were written. It includes the wisdom of the scriptures, but also many other sources—history, literature, science, poetry and the arts—all that we have learned since the scriptures were written.
I call myself a Humanist.
Suggestion: To learn more about the state of the art of human experience, read The Good Book, by A.C. Grayling.
Some people judge a book by its cover, once they hear someone identify as an atheist, they don’t care to discuss anymore
Personally, I like to discuss the issues with people, and so I ask concrete questions instead. If I really had to call myself an atheist to someone, I would first pose the concrete question: Do you believe God exist? And then I would explain why I say no to that question.
Someone said,“You know he was an atheist and didn’t believe in god” and then someone replied,“Well, I guess he does now!!!” I had to bite my tongue and walk away, because I think I was the only atheist in my office.
That kind of stuff is both sad and common-place. I think your response was correct, because your working circumstances could have changed for the worse otherwise.
Another response worth considering could have been, some time after: “I heard what you said about Carlin before. But if there is no God, or rather no afterlife, then what you said wouldn’t be true”
Why should we degrade ourselves by labeliing ourselves at all? I believe that the weight of a label should be on believers of the unprovable.
Let us label them ‘religiousts’. Religiousts must be smug that we have put ourselves in this box of a label, and even add to the strength of the label by starting Athiest groups. When the feeling of wanting to join such a group struck me, and then I listened to religiousts put downs of athiests, I realized that our label has just given them more power to dispel us.
Personally, I have never been asked if I was an atheist straight out of the blue, and have very rarely been asked that at all. I usually get accused of it, rather than asked about it, and it was always in the context of a conversation that had already started. I also do not recall ever having said that I was. I try to stick to particular ideas. My response is to remind them to keep their eye on the ball, that we were talking about Specific Fact Claim X, and, if pressed on the point, answer in a way that by-passes a lot of the fencing leading into it, like, “If, by that, what you actually meant to ask me was am I a christian, the answer to that question would be no. Do I actually believe that god does, in fact, exist? No. Am I 100% certain that the universe is completely absent of anything matching a reasonable definition of a god? No. Am I 100% certain that this Fact Claim X you are trying to make is incorrect, completely independent of the question of the existence of gods? Yes. You are wrong, whether god exists or not” and take it from there.
Do you believe in Leprechauns? Probably not, because Leprechauns are imaginary. Yes, there are lots of books, movies and fairy tales dealing with Leprechauns. People talk about Leprechauns all the time. Leprechauns even have a popular brand of breakfast cereal. But that does not mean that Leprechauns exist.
We know that Leprechauns are imaginary. Why? Because there is no evidence for their existence. Despite all the publicity Leprechauns get, normal people dismiss storybook creatures like Leprechauns as myths, and rightly so.
If you do not believe in Leprechauns, what are you? Are you an aleprechaunist? Of course not. You are normal. People who do not believe in Leprechauns are completely normal.
It is time to choose a new name for those of us who know that all human gods are imaginary. There are two good reasons for picking a new name. First, the word atheist is overloaded with extraneous meaning right now, most of it negative. Second, there is no reason to define ourselves as the opposite of theists because theists are delusional. The word “atheist” gives theists way too much credit. The new name that I would like to propose is Rational Person.